Holmes Rolston III holds many titles: professor, reverend, doctor. Now, he can add one more – winner of the 2003 Templeton Prize.
Rolston, a CSU philosophy professor since 1968, has been chosen as winner of the most monetarily valuable award given to an individual. The Templeton Prize, valued at 725,000 British pounds or about $1.2 million, is an annual prize given for creative and innovative work in religious thought.
“Life is full of surprises, and a big surprise is finding myself here,” Rolston said at a press conference in New York where the award winner was announced March 19. He said he knew he was nominated but was surprised to win the award.
England’s Prince Philip will award Rolston the prize at Buckingham Palace on May 7. At CSU, President Albert Yates will be holding an invitation dinner in honor of Rolston on May 13, Rolston said.
Rolston plans to use the money from the prize to endow a chair in science and religion at his alma mater, Davidson College in North Carolina.
“I’ve been interested in finding ways to support this at Davidson,” he said. “This is a godsend that enables me to return something to my alma mater.”
Past winners of the prize have included religious “celebrities,” Rolston said, such as Mother Theresa and Billy Graham.
Rolston said he thinks he won the award because of the two “hats” he wears. These hats are his studies in environmental ethics and his evaluation of the interaction between religion and science, particularly biology and Darwinism.
Rolston’s areas of study are directly connected to the classes he teaches at CSU. He is currently on leave this semester to take time for research and speaking engagements, but he normally teaches a course on science and religion, one on environmental ethics and one as a philosophy graduate student seminar.
Another of Rolston’s titles is University Distinguished Professor, which is given to 12 professors chosen because of their publications and international reputations.
Chris Thomas, a philosophy master’s student who took three classes from Rolston, said he appreciates Rolston both as a teacher and as a distinguished member of the field.
“He gets to know his students, their names and why they’re taking the class,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he can understand why Rolston won this award.
“He was one of the founders of the field of environmental ethics, especially in relation with religion,” Thomas said. “A lot of times religious concerns had a detrimental effect on the environment.”
Rolston gives credit to CSU as a good environment for his studies.
“It’s been a good school for me to get the kind of skills I need for me to be recognized,” he said. “Colorado is the ‘mountain majesties above the fruited plains,’ and there is no place on earth better to come to have the kind of career I’ve had. As an environmentalist, I need to give ample credit to my environment.”